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Feature: Nintendo Life Book Club - Castlevania II: Simon's Quest

Posted by Philip J Reed

Eventually Howell stumbles upon a reason to keep Tim around: Dracula’s spirit (that’s his actual spirit, not his blood) wishes to possess Simon’s body, and Tim can help keep Simon from being periodically overcome by the vampire.

In these “fighting for control of the body” scenes, Howell aims for an unnerving homage to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What he achieves is something marginally less frightening than Jim Carrey’s The Mask.

This comparison is doubly appropriate, actually, as Tim’s weapon of choice against Dracula during these struggles is his... erm... wit.

If Tim Bradley could have screamed, he would have let out a long, loud one. Unfortunately, he was so paralyzed with fear that he could barely move, let alone make a sound. Dracula was taking over Simon Belmont’s body!
“Ah-ha! You are a puny little nothing, aren’t you? Why ever did Simon Belmont choose you?” asked Dracula’s voice, coming from Simon’s transformed body. [...] “I shall enjoy hearing you squeal and feeling you squirm when I sink my lovely fangs into your soul!”
“Is that the tooth?” Tim shot back.
“Arrgh!” cried Dracula’s voice. Simon’s body jerked back as though physically struck. “A pun! I abhor puns! If there’s anything I can’t stand more, it’s stupid, silly jokes!”
“Really! Well then, Drac, maybe you’d like to know why a duck flies looking down?”
“No!” Simon’s body shook with violent tremors. “No! Stop or I shall tear you to pieces!”
“Because he doesn’t want to quack up!”

Forget garlic, holy water, wooden stakes or crucifixes; according to Christopher Howell, Dracula is most easily defeated by bad jokes. If you’re being terrorized by a vampire, you don’t need a Belmont or a Van Helsing; you need your annoying Uncle Larry.

In order to prevent Dracula from body-swapping permanently, Simon and Tim need to track down Dracula’s body parts. Along the way, Tim keeps Simon from succumbing to the 7 Deadly Sins, lest he become an even easier vessel for Dracula to inhabit. There’s a scene in which Simon is hungry after a battle with some ghouls, and Tim tells him not to eat, as he doesn’t want him to commit the sin of gluttony. I’d really hate to break it to you, Tim, but I don’t think that was Simon feeling the pull of the 7 Deadly Sins so much as it was the pull of the 5 Basic Food Groups.

Nevertheless, Simon keeps him around, as it’s obviously very valuable to have by your side an annoying child who won’t let you satiate your thirst or hunger after physically demanding tasks.

Along the way they meet a friendly monster named Freddie. Tim is sceptical that he’s really as friendly as he claims:

“We have a guy in the horror movies back home. His name is Freddy, too.”
“Ah, but ‘Freddie’ with an i-e?”
“Hmm. No, I suppose it’s with a y.”
“Well, there you go! All good monsters have there [sic] names end with an i-e; all bad ones with a y. Helps keep things straight.”

Yes, of course. That’s why Simon’s out to rid the land of the curse of Count Draculay, and in other scary stories the heroes are battling Frankensteiny, the Wolfmay, hordes of zombays, and the Mumm... oh okay. That one works, actually. You’ve done your research!

You’ll notice the grammatical error in the passage quoted above, and that’s because this is the point in the book at which F.X. Nine’s editor fell asleep. While the entire text is riddled with misspellings, incomplete sentences and unintentionally-deployed homophones, it only gets worse from here. The next few pages feature “dundgeons,” “an red sign,” a character whose name alternates between “Slimy” and “Slimey,” and, particularly embarrassing, “The Ye Olde Anti-Vampire Shoppe.” We’re not only reading a terrible book, we’re reading the first draft of a terrible book. (Fans of the game will be pleased to know that they at least spell “possess” right, though.)

Soon after the pointless debate with Freddie over the proper spelling of the names of fictional beasts, Howell realizes that he’s two-thirds of the way through the book and our heroes have only gathered one of Dracula’s parts. This leads to a paragraph-long info dump in which we’re assured not only that the rest of the parts were successfully collected, but that the circumstances surrounding their collection were really so very exciting, yes indeed they most certainly were.

It’s very nice of Howell to tell us how exciting these events were, but since he was writing the book, couldn’t he have let us read about them and be excited as well?

Nah. Not when he needs to save precious space for scenes such as this, in which Simon barters with a merchant:

“Can’t give away these things free,” he said. “A man’s got to make a livin’, ya know? And I reckon from the looks of you — I mean with those blonde locks and those muscles I take you to be a hero and probably a wealthy man [...].”
Simon was aghast at this. “I am not a rich man by any means. I serve goodness and right!”
“Ah, yes, but this nose — ” he touched his ratlike snout “ — this proboscis of mine smells coins, and these ears — ” he tapped a hairy lobe “ — they hear the jingle of coins, no?”
“In truth, I do have a few coins in my pocket. And perhaps I can spare one for your trouble in this matter. But only one, I think!”

Their exchange continues in that circular vein over the course of six pages. Six. Pages.

Think about that.

We didn’t get to read about any of the, you know, adventurous stuff Simon and Tim did in service of what we were told was the main quest of the book, but Simon gets to haggle for six pages over a couple of coins.

Let me say here and now for anyone reading out there: if somebody tells you that they need your help on a matter of life or death, and then you stand idly by while they try to barter with a street vendor for a few pennies off their piece of fruit, walk away. They obviously don’t know the meaning of either life or death.

The book ends about the way you might expect: Tim slays Dracula with a well-placed fantastic joke (Q: What’s black and white and red all over? A: Bela Lugosi in a blender) and Simon reunites with his fake girlfriend who never existed before this book and will never be heard from again.

She offers Tim a piece of chocolate for his troubles, but, thanks to all that growth of character along the way, he rejects her offer and, thus, her gesture of thanks. What a lovely young man he’s become.

It turns out he’s not receptive to Linda’s gift because she was only being held in torturous confinement by an undead psychopath bent on inhabiting her boyfriend’s body and conquering the world. Tim has more urgent problems, like the bully who wants to beat him up when he’s finished using the bathroom.

“Oh, well,” said Tim Bradley. “At least he’s not Dracula.”
“They are all Draculas,” said Simon Belmont. “But they can all be bested, Tim. Remember that, and stay true to what you learned in Castlevania.”
Tim Bradley smiled, took a deep breath and stepped back into his own world.
Castlevania had been pretty rough, true.
But there really was nothing scarier — or more challenging — than junior high school!

Stay classy, Tim.

So wait, does that suggest that the entire "adventure" in Castlevania really just takes place in Tim's mind while he sat on the toilet, avoiding bullies? Or was Tim returned safely to the restroom from which he was abducted by the middle aged leather man?

You be the judge! If you care. Which you shouldn't. So, nevermind.

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User Comments (44)



Ryno said:

How did I miss out on these amazing books back in the day?



shingi_70 said:

Cool. Are we going to see any article comparing the Series roots the Metroidvaina games. or a look at the N64 games.



evilralfwiggum said:

I did a book report on this book when I was in the 6th grade. I made a poster for the project. On the poster I had the 5 body parts of Dracula and maybe I drew Simon and the castle or something, if I didn't throw that poster away maybe one day I'll come across it (Chances are it's long gone). I'm not sure if I actually read the book or not, I remember reading some of it. The teacher wasn't very happy I read a book based on a video game. The next year when I read a book based on Back to the Future it went smoother. I played the card of I didn't know there was a movie. It was a fine piece of acting, lol.



Noire said:

“Come. Grab my whip, Timothy Bradley.”

This needs to be enshrined in the pantheon of greatest Castlevania-related sentences ever.



ThomasBW84 said:

A really funny article Phil. I almost want to read the book myself, to truly absorb its awfulness.

@Wamtu - Actually, @Chicken_Brutus VOLUNTEERED for this article, in fact it was his idea

@shingi_70 - There are a couple more articles lined up, probably for Thursday and Saturday. They're in the works.



Tryken said:

I never knew these books existed! But now that I do, I am so happy that I missed out on them as a child.

Next book will probably be:

Samus said, "Bradley, come with me to Metroid!"



Tryken said:

Oo. The best part will be when Bradley goes,

"Well, if you really ARE Samus Aron, who's your girlfriend?"
"Why Sarah Windwaker is."
"Wow, you've really done your research! Well, okay, then, Samus..."



edcomics said:

I'm not sure if I owned Simon's Quest, but I definitely owned Blaster Master.



ueI said:

From what I've just read, the review is better than the book.



timp29 said:

Simon Blemont is a paedophile I will never play Castlevania again

We all go to Castlevania when dropping babies off at the pool. OK I'm confused.



Thwiidscube said:

A book club eh? Well, I hope they review some of those Mario Adventure books from the 1990's. I was thinking about buying one!



ogo79 said:

i read all the Doom books, Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man 2 books, i guess count me in this club



the_shpydar said:

Ironically, this review has made me want to read this book more than any review of any book has in the history of ever.

Awesome job, Phil!



WiiLovePeace said:

Hahahahahahaha, that was hilarious! What a funny "review" of a crap book, almost makes one want to read the book but... I'll pass Do you guys take requests? Although not really a "book" as such, since he doesn't have much writing, I'd like you to give the "Okami Official Complete Works" a run through, if only to spread awareness on this amazing game & it's amazing artbook



StarDust4Ever said:

Wow! Someone kind of unearthed some dark un-treasures here from the depths of video-game obscurity.

@NintendoLife: While you are starting up a video game related books section, I have a request: I remember as a kid, there was a series of five Mario-themed books which were basically loose knock-offs of the "choose-your-own-adventure" series. Except that they involved a certain fat, mustached plumber or two. I can't remember for the life of me the exact titles, but the series was liscensed by Nintendo, and there were five books in total. I had the privaledge of reading two of the books as a kid after my mom ordered them from a Scholastic catalog. It would be cool if someone from the Nintendo Life team could hunt them down and review them.


EDIT: It's called "Mario Adventure," and there were more than just five...



warioswoods said:

Fantastic read (this page, not the book), many thanks for the feature.

I had the kind of parents that could have easily picked up this book instead of the game for me (had they known of it) in order to channel those video game interests into something more mentally healthy, like reading. Amusingly enough, this book could surely rot a child's brain twice as fast as gaming.

stay true to what you learned in Castlevania



bauckster said:

This may be the funniest article I've ever read. Love the dry wit, Chicken Brutus, sir! You should make a pretty penny reviewing awful books!



SwerdMurd said:

SO entertaining. TY phil--always a pleasure. First time I've actually been moved to comment on an "article" post in months



Wolfenstein83 said:

So funny, and brings back memories.
I also had the novelization of Bionic Commando, don't remember much about that one though.
It was funny they even decided to make books based on games, which is not too crazy, but the games only had a small amount of story to begin with, since they mostly focused on gameplay.
Somewhere out there, somebody has all of them in a box, waiting to be unleashed once again.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Thanks for the comments, folks. And as for the Mario Adventure books...I had at least a few of those as a kid. If I remember correctly, it wasn't as simple as "deciding" where to go had to solve puzzles, and based on the answer you got you'd be told where to go. Actually pretty cool, in theory at least.

I'll try to track a few of those down as well. For now though...we still have a bunch of Worlds of Power books to "enjoy."



WAM2 said:

"Yes, of course. That’s why Simon’s out to rid the land of the curse of Count Draculay, and in other scary stories the heroes are battling Frankensteiny, the Wolfmay, hordes of zombays, and the Mumm... oh okay. That one works, actually. You’ve done your research!"




ueI said:

I once read books based on Super Mario Advance and Zelda Oracle of Seasons. They were choose your own adventure style and fateful to the plots of the games. This allowed them to advertise the books as some kind of walkthrough. I found them to be as good as was possible given the source material. The Zelda one suffered from skipping half the dungeons, however.



manpretty said:

Ugghh... I remember this book. I bought it for a 10 hour car-ride for a family vacation. Just flat out awful on every level. It guaranteed that despite being a young Nintendo junkie I would never pick up a Worlds of Power book again. Hell it was so bad I'm surprised I ever picked up a book again.



technotreegrass said:

I found this book at a book sale yesterday and thanks to this article, I just had to pick it up. I love how hilariously bad it is.

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